Under fire from Congress over his "puppy" remark, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday mounted a counter-offencive, questioning the efficacy of its much touted food security scheme and accused it of "destroying national honour in the eyes of the world" with Commonwealth Games scam.
"They have brought before the nation a food security bill and are claiming as if a meal has already come on the plates," Modi said in a barb at Congress over the food security ordinance, the largest initiative of its kind in the world and brainchild of party president Sonia Gandhi.
He also chose to launch the attack on Congress over the scam-hit CWG games from the home turf of its MP and disgraced former chairman of Organising Committee Suresh Kalmadi.
"Two countries hosted two games...South Korea hosted Olympics and India the Commonwealth Games. While Korea brought honour to itself through the Olympics, our nation of 120 crore people lost its honour in the eyes of the world," he said addressing students and faculty at the Ferguson College here.
"One country uses sport to bring laurel to itself among the global community and another brings itself dishonour."
Modi, however, chose not respond to criticism by his opponents for defending his government over the way it tackled 2002 post-Godhra communal riots and his "puppy" and "I am a Hindu Nationalist" remarks which have invited criticism.
Referring to growing cyber crime, Modi said his government has set up the world's first Forensic Science University in Gujarat.
"Now Congress will say what is new. Mind you, I am not talking about courses in forensic science being taught in colleges and universities. I am talking about a Forensic Science University, which is the first of its kind in the world," he said.
Without naming Rajiv Gandhi, Modi referred to the late Prime Minister's remarks about ushering India into the 21st century, saying, "Our ears have got tired of hearing about the 21st century. Did anybody have the vision about how to take India into the 21st century?"
"If anybody had a vision about how to take India into a new millennium, we would not be standing where we stand now."
Modi lamented the atmosphere of "neerasha" (despondency) in the country but said "I have not lost hope". "I don't endorse this view. It is essential that we get out of this despondency," he added.
The Gujarat Chief Minister, who was recently elevated as BJP's election campaign committee chief to lead the party's challenge in the next year's Lok Sabha polls, also targeted Indian diplomacy under Congress-led UPA government.
"I am amazed that we have no friends left in the neighbourhood," he said.
Amid talks of raising Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector, Modi said, "The country spends more on importing defence equipment and arms than on petroleum products. Do we not have engineers who could manufacture weapons for us, or do we not have the steel to produce such equipment. I tell you, our engineering colleges don't have defence engineering as a subject."
"There is a sense of despondency in the country today," Modi said, and called for modernising of India without westernising it.
"There is a need to nurture talent for nation building," Modi said, peppering his address with achievements made by the Gujarat government in education and other sectors.
"Education has a very big role in nation building," Modi said, adding, "If we want to have a good education system, we should create good teachers. But creating good teachers is not priority now," he said.
"There is this big difference between others and us. Other people are interested in power. We give priority to empowerment. They want power, we want to empower every citizen of this country. There is a huge difference in our thinking," he said, referring to the innovation incubation hub he has set up under Infosys' N R Narayanmurthy in Gujarat.
Narayanmurthy, he said, initially had reservations about heading the project fearing "Income Tax raids", but finally agreed.
"I don't want to make any political statements here, but have the expectations from the system been fulfilled?" he asked.
Modi slammed the education system, saying "Earlier, education was a man making mission. Now, it has become a money making mission. Was this our tradition?" He emphasised the need for "meaningful research" to find solutions to present-day problems.
Modi, who apart from being dubbed as Hindutva posterboy has been called a darling of India Inc, insisted, "We want modernisation, and not westernisation."
He cited the example of South Korea to highlight the strides a small country of the size of Gujarat could make.
"South Korea also gained independence at the same time (as India). It is the size of Gujarat. Now, in this short span, it is among the developed nations. Such a small country hosts Olympics. Through sports, it established a position in the world," he added.
"During Olympics, people often say that despite India's huge size, we don't get medals. Have we linked sports with our education system?" he asked and added, "If newly-recruited army jawans are given proper training, I am sure even they will bring 5 to 10 medals."
Modi also dwelt on the strides made by China, which he said, in the 70s, decided to focus on human development.
"In 10 years from 2000, China, which did not have even a single university among the top 500 varsities in the world, now has 32, whereas, India which had two, now only has one. Why did this happen?" he asked.
"How did China do it? It spent almost 20 per cent of its GDP on education. Our government promised to spend seven per cent but actually spent just four per cent," Modi said.
On the development in Gujarat, Modi said, "The change which could not be had in 50 years, we have brought in the last 10 years."
"We have to emphasise meaningful research. Doctoral degrees should not only adorn the walls of drawing rooms, the research papers should be a major tool for nation building," he said.